Preview: Munster v Leinster

Date published: December 23 2016

Munster have made a handful of changes for their clash with Leinster at Thomond Park in the PRO12 on Monday.

James Cronin, Jean Kleyn and Ronan O’Mahony are all included with Francis Saili in line to make his first appearance of the season if sprung from the bench.

The Kiwi centre is fit to play after undergoing shoulder surgery at the end of last season.

Two changes in the pack see James Cronin join last week’s try scorer Niall Scannell and John Ryan in the front row, while Jean Kleyn will partner Donnacha Ryan in the second row.

It’s as you were with the international back row of captain Peter O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell and CJ Stander, and there is no change to the half-back pairing of Conor Murray and Tyler Bleyendaal.

Winger Ronan O’Mahony, who was the 24th man last weekend, takes the place of Keith Earls in an otherwise unchanged backline.

Meanwhile, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has made a total of ten changes.

Cullen retains four of the backs that faced Northampton Saints in the Champions Cup last Saturday but captain Isa Nacewa swaps wings in the only positional change.

As a result UCD’s Barry Daly comes into the side on the left wing with Nacewa operating on the right. South African international Zane Kirchner will start at full-back for his 76th Leinster cap.

Robbie Henshaw continues in the centre but is partnered this week by Rory O’Loughlin. O’Loughlin, who wins his tenth cap for Leinster, scored a try in both home and away games against Northampton Saints.

Ross Byrne again starts in the number ten jersey but is joined from the start this week by Maori All Black Jamison Gibson-Park.

Cian Healy, James Tracy and Tadhg Furlong form an Irish international front row. Furlong is the only forward retained from last week’s starting XV.

Ross Molony and Mike McCarthy start in the second row, while in the back row Rhys Ruddock, Dan Leavy and Jack Conan complete the pack.

Form: Munster’s only defeat in the last eight rounds of the PRO12 was to Leinster at the Aviva Stadium on October 8. The Munstermen have won their last ten matches at Thomond Park in all tournaments since Leinster beat them there 12 months ago. Leinster have also lost only once in their last eight PRO12 fixtures: 29-38 at Scarlets on 25 November. The Leinstermen have played two matches in 2016 away to fellow Irish provinces, losing both and failing to score a try, at Connacht in March and at Ulster in April. Leinster have won their last three matches against Munster since the Munstermen’ s 28-13 victory at Thomond Park exactly two years ago.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Ronan O’Mahony, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Francis Saili, 23 Andrew Conway

Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Isa Nacewa (c), 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Barry Daly, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park 8 Jack Conan, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 James Tracy, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 Charlie Rock, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Tom Daly

Date: Monday, December 26
Venue: Thomond Park
Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)